Microsoft takes hit over struggling online ad business

Microsoft’s been forced to write down the value of one of its biggest acquisitions by $6.2 million, in an admission that its search-related ad business has been less than successful.

The company bought aQuantive five years ago for $6.3 billion, in what was its largest-ever acquisition at the time – but one that did little to boost Microsoft’s business in that area.

The purchase was seen by some as a knee-jerk reaction to Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick, which was announced a few weeks previously,  with Microsoft’s the far more expensive deal.

The write-down means that the company may end up posting a loss for the fourth quarter, which ended in June.

“As a result of its 2012 impairment review, Microsoft has determined that a write down of its Online Services Division goodwill of approximately $6.2 billion is required,” says the company in a statement.

“While the aQuantive acquisition continues to provide tools for Microsoft’s online advertising efforts, the acquisition did not accelerate growth to the degree anticipated, contributing to the write down.”

Microsoft’s also warning that its online services arm – which includes the Bing search engine – is likely to grow less than previously forecast.

“While the Online Services Division business has been improving, the company’s expectations for future growth and profitability are lower than previous estimates,” it says.